Seabiscuit is a name that people around the world are familiar with. This remarkable steed was born on 23 May 1933 from Swing On and sire Hard Tack, a son of the well-known Man O' War. Nobody would ever have believed that Seabiscuit would become a champion and thus he came to symbolize hope during the Great Depression.
Seabiscuit, a bay colt, was raised at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. Not much to look at, he was rather small with big knees and slept for long periods. Seabiscuit’s first trainer was Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons who believed in his potential but found the colt to be lazy. The young horse ran in a number of small races in which he often ended up toward the rear. As such, he was not taken seriously. However, at the age of 3 he competed in 35 races coming first on 5 occasions. The next season was equally unimpressive and he was sold to Charles S. Howard for $ 2,000. Tom Smith now took over his training and was able to bring out the best in Seabiscuit. Jockey Red Pollard was assigned to Seabiscuit. At first their impression was not big, but in the last 8 races of the season they won a few races such as the Scarsdale Handicap and Detroit’s Governor’s Handicap. In November 1936 Seabiscuit began showing everyone what he was made of, winning the Bay Bridge Handicap by 5 lengths after a bad start. Despite losses at the Santa Anita Handicap, Seabiscuit was becoming a firm favorite amongst racegoers.
In no time at all, Seabiscuit was taking the lead again winning 5 stakes in a row. Through 1937 he gained 11 out of 15 victories and was the top money winner of the country. A celebrity on the West Coast, Seabiscuit was regularly reported on. In 1938 Pollard was in an accident whilst racing, left with crushed ribs and a broken arm he was unable to back Seabiscuit. George Woolf was selected to jockey the unique steed.
The media encouraged a meeting between Seabiscuit and War Admiral (a son of Man O’ War). After negotiations a race was scheduled for May 1938 at Belmont, but Seabiscuit scratched due to lacking fitness. Another race was held, this time between Seabiscuit and Ligaroti, who won even though the other jockey was making constant fouls. By 1 November 1938 he was ready to tackle War Admiral. The race at Pimlico Racecourse was 1 3/16 miles and the grandstands were packed. All were sure War Admiral would take the meet. Seabiscuit was carefully trained to jump straight out of the gates before the race, which was contrary to his usual style, but essential in such a race. Both horses broke out of the gates, Seabiscuit leading at first. Along the back straight War Admiral caught up. Woolf gave Seabiscuit a chance to see his rival which was just the motivation the horse needed to push ahead winning the race by 4 lengths. In 1938 Seabiscuit was voted as Horse of the Year.
In 1939 Seabiscuit suffered a ligament injury. Along with Pollard who’s leg had been crushed some time back, he took time to heal. After a period Seabiscuit once again impressed all with a third come-back. A horse first considered mediocre, Seabiscuit became a celebrity and icon in America. The unusual champion was retired to Ridgewood Ranch in California where he sired 108 foals. He attracted visitors to the ranch until the day he died. Seabiscuit became a legend, etched into horse racing history and the hearts of many.